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Teach for America to start training some teachers earlier

For years, critics have taken aim at Teach for America by saying that the nonprofit encourages young adults to cycle in and out of the classroom quickly, without picking up the skills necessary to help children.

Now, the organization — which recruits top college graduates to work in high-need schools — is responding to that criticism by training some teachers earlier and extending support longer for others.

Teach for America’s CEOs announced two new initiatives on Tuesday during a meeting with TFA teachers in Nashville where they summarized the results of a “listening tour” conducted in their first year. One new program will offer pre-service training to college juniors who express interest in joining Teach for America after graduation, and another to work with teachers who are remaining in the classroom after completing their two-year TFA obligations.

“With this extra pre-service year, we’ll give them more time to absorb the foundational knowledge all teachers need, more space to reflect on the role they are about to step into, and more time to directly practice the skills they’ll need as educators,” said CEO Matt Kramer.

Elisa Villanueva Beard, the group’s other CEO, offered comebacks for teachers who hear criticism about Teach for America.

“When folks say our teachers are temporary – introduce them to some of the great alumni spending their fifth and tenth and twentieth year in the classroom,” she said, adding, “And no matter what, this is not a two year commitment. … We’re in this for life.”

Teach for America brings hundreds of teachers to New York City each year. But the number of TFA teachers, known as corps members, entering the city’s schools has fallen in recent years because of tight hiring conditions, and many new recruits now work in city charter schools. The group supplies teachers in 47 other districts and starting next year will bring teachers to Buffalo as well.

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